It took a pandemic, but in 2020, even the most unlikely candidates have been working from home. Some major corporations are even considering making the arrangement permanent, or at least increasing the ration of work done at home. Many employees have reported health benefits, as the daily commute and high street sandwich lunches have been removed from their daily lives. But evidence suggests that our homes are not always as health-promoting as we would like, particularly in terms of indoor air pollution. Given we are spending more time at home, it seems prudent to make ourselves aware of the potential risks, which range from the fragrances in our everyday cleaning products, through to the insulation materials in our lofts. How can we avoid indoor air pollution that can cause respiratory and skin conditions and exacerbate allergies?
It might seem obvious but one of the main ways our indoor air is polluted is through the dirt we bring into our homes. Remove outdoor shoes when arriving home and clean your home frequently. But be mindful of the cleaning products you are using to ensure they won’t introduce dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your indoor air environment. Carpets should be cleaned regularly using a HEPA filter vacuum that captures and removes all contaminants.
Consider an HVAC system
HVAC systems keep the temperature and humidity in your home in check, as well as keeping the air clean by removing allergens and pollutants from the home and replacing them with clean, fresh air. Just be sure to change the filters frequently or you could just be pumping dirty air back into your home.
Check which insulation material you have
Some of us do not even know which kind of insulation we have in our homes. Do verify whether you have mineral wool, also known as Manmade Vitreous Fibres (MMVF). There are feared to be health risks associated with this insulation material, which leading pulmonologist Marjolein Drent has compared to those of asbestos.
Indoor plants can clean your indoor air by converting the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen and getting rid of cancer-causing VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde. There is also evidence to suggest that plants improve mental health by reducing stress. Suggested indoor plants include aloe vera, fern and cacti. However, do consider that plants may collect and foster mold growth as well as act as triggers for those with pollen allergies.
Avoid artificial fragrances
Conventional laundry detergents, air fresheners, and fabric softeners contain fragrances mase from petroleum products whose testing mostly focuses on whether they cause skin irritation and not whether they can have significant adverse health effects once inhaled. Reduce use of aerosol sprays and choose mild cleaners that do not contain artificial fragrances.
Beware carbon monoxide
Any combustion sources in your home can produce carbon monoxide, posing a serious threat to safety. Pay close attention to the central heating system, gas water heater, wood stove, fireplace, furnace, or unvented kerosene heaters in your house. Have your central heating system inspected and maintained at least once per year by a certified professional. Install a carbon monoxide monitor to be sure this carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless killer is not in your home.